Father baking with children

International Cook with Your Kids Day: A movement foodservice can get behind

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With so many food and nutrition challenges to be met, I love when a company commits to being a part of the solution. A campaign, cause, effort—whatever you want to call it—that is authentic and has great impact.

That’s how I feel about the Uncle Ben’s Brand launching International Cook with Your Kids Day Saturday, Oct. 15, a day to prompt parents to set aside time to cook together as a family. This simple prompt can be the reminder of how fun it is to cook together as a family and the potential start of it being done regularly.

You might be wondering where you, as foodservice providers, come into this equation. I’m a big believer in the importance of cooking and eating together as a family. It’s the perfect opportunity to demonstrate nutritious food choices, foster quality family bonding time and learn cooking skills essential for lifelong healthy eating. In many ways, we have these same opportunities to cook with “family” in our own accounts and to help foster that behavior at home as well. 

Coming from a global rice brand, it is an authentic message. Rice is a food staple for nearly half of the world’s population, and learning how to cook it is a foundational skill that enables preparing a variety of healthful meals.

“We launched Ben’s Beginners in 2012 as a way to encourage parents and kids to cook together, because research has shown that families that cook and eat together have children who make healthier meal choices,” says Matt Hurst, corporate affairs manager for Mars Food North America. “In line with the mission of Ben’s Beginners we are introducing International Cook with Your Kids Day this year as a way to inspire families from around the world to cook together and share their favorite recipes.”

Cooking experiences can be shared on social media via photos, videos and stories using the hashtag #LookWhatWeMade. Additional details are available on the digital hub.

“We need everyone’s help to encourage families to get into the kitchen together,” Hurst says.  

I agree. As a community of professionals that prepare and serve food every day, we are in a unique position to get behind the movement.

Here are just a few ideas for how to promote International Cook with Your Kids Day in your operation:

•    K - 12: Make it a school competition, where families cook together at home on Saturday, Oct.15 and submit their photos, videos and/or essays for school foodservice associates and administrators to judge and award winners. Prizes can include inexpensive cooking gadgets, a free school lunch or a cooking lesson with the school chef.

•    Corporate Dining: Offer meal kit packages of all the ingredients for a particular recipe that your customers can pick up Friday, Oct. 14, so they have everything on hand to cook with their kids on Saturday. Perhaps each customer that purchases a meal delivery package gets a free healthy food in the dining room or a booklet of recipes they can make at home to continue the momentum.

•    Higher Education: Parents may not be available, but foodservice associates can act as mentors to cook with “their” kids. Pair up foodservice associates across campus with students for an “Iron Chef”-like competition to see who makes the best recipe from a basket of ingredients. Or have the students pick a favorite recipe from home that you can cook together.

•    If you can’t arrange for a special promotion, simply inform your customers about International Cook with Your Kids Day and direct them to the digital hub, where they can access step-by-step directions for making recipes. Post a shout out in the school newsletter or via electronic signage in the corporate dining room. Reminders on your social media platforms are another easy way to promote the celebration.  

We’re already an integral part of the wellness programming team for our customers. Here is another idea that’s easy to tag onto and get behind.  

Rachel Begun, MS, RDN, is a nutrition and culinary consultant and special diets expert. She helps the food industry create healthier food environments and educates the public through media interviews, writing, blogging and public speaking. She is a scientific/medical advisory council member for the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness and helped them relaunch their GREAT Kitchens and Schools, Colleges and Camps programs.

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